Each of our triplets were born exactly one minute apart. Still, the two minutes which elapsed from the birth of “Baby A” to “Baby C” seemed like hours to me. Imagine if I had had to wait 11 years!
Such was the case for a Walsall, Great Britain family. Parents Lisa and Adrian Shepherd were married in 1994. Lisa would soon be diagnosed with endometriosis and polycystic ovaries. She was advised that her chances of getting pregnant were “not promising.” After years of trying various solutions, the Shepherds entered the world of in vitro fertilization in 1998. Fourteen of Lisa’s 24 eggs were successfully fertilized with the father’s sperm. Two of the 14 were then implanted with the other 12 going to frozen storage.
Though the couple “didn’t get their hopes up,” they soon found out that they were expecting twin girls. But that’s only the very beginning of their story.
Enter the twin girls’ triplet sister over a decade later. Ryleigh Shepherd was conceived in 1998, the exact same time as her twin sisters, but she was not born until 2010. ABC News reported the story yesterday. Experts in Great Britain say that they don’t know of another case in their country in which three siblings from the same round of fertility treatments have been born with such an age gap.
But the reason for the delay, the Shepherds explain, is simple. Lisa Shepherd tells ABC:
“We had been so busy raising the twins that it wasn’t until then (when the girls were 9) that we stopped to think about having another one…It seemed strange to think that we were using embryos that we had stored all those years ago, that were conceived at the same time as the girls…We knew that if we had another baby it would in effect be the girls’ triplet as they were all conceived at the same time.
The Shepherds got input from their twin daughters who were all for an addition to the family, regardless of when that addition was conceived. And the rest, as they say, is history. Mom reports that the children look exactly alike, adding that the resemblance in girls who straddle two different centuries is “uncanny.”
Though the Shepherd girls were born 11 years apart, the family is by no means the record holder when it comes to how long an embryo has been frozen. According to a report in the journal Fertility and Sterility, that distinction belongs to a New York woman whose embryo had been stored for 20 years.
How long an embryo can be stored and maintain its viability is up for debate. As freezing methods become more sophisticated and with the continued success of new reproductive techniques, fertility experts seem to think the sky is the limit.
“It’s incredibly common for people to go back and second and third time,” said Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. “There have been recorded cases of kids born far longer apart. This doesn’t tip the scales.”
Regardless of whether they “tip the scales” or not, the Shepherds are now a complete family. And they sound quite content.
“The girls are thrilled to have a sister,” said Lisa Shepherd. “And they know that she was conceived at the same time that they were, but has been in the freezer.”
Pretty cool stuff if you ask me.